Fermin Lopez, a Winston-Salem blacksmith, has won the History Channel’s Armed Forces Tournament and $10,000 check for his efforts.
Lopez was named as the tournament’s champion in an episode of the network’s “Forged in Fire” TV show that aired Wednesday night.
Lopez, a U.S. Army veteran, competed against against three other blacksmiths who are also veterans of the military.
“I guess it’s out of the hat now,” Lopez said to about 30 friends and family members who gathered for a watch party at the JuggHeads Growlers & Pints at 4843 Country Club Road in Winston-Salem.
“Thank you for your support,” Lopez said. “It was quite a journey, but in the end, I was the champion. I’m $10,000 richer.”
The crowd then cheered Lopez for his effort.
During the TV program, Lopez smiled as he sat next to his wife, Robin. They brought three boxes of cupcakes for their guests at the bar.
Lopez, 53, made a Civil War-era cavalry sword in the forge at his Winston-Salem home that passed three tests of the show’s three judges.
During the History Channel’s broadcast, Lopez competed against three other contestants in display of their skills as blacksmiths.
“I’m having a good time,” Lopez said during the program.
The judges compared the contestant’s military knives, and narrowed the field to Lopez and other contestants. After the judges tested their knives by hacking them against a small torpedo, there were only Lopez and another contestant remaining.
“It’s good to see someone locally on television,” said Kelly Michaels of Rural Hall, a friend of Lopez. “He does great work. I have one of his knives.”
In a head-to-head duel on the July 28 episode of the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire,” Lopez was named a finalist after an Armed Forces Redeployment Tournament duel.
Lopez, won $2,000 and the opportunity to join three other duel winners in the finals.
In 2019, Lopez made his first appearance as a contestant on “Forged in Fire” when top bladesmiths from each branch of the U.S. military — Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy — competed to earn a $50,000 prize. Lopez was a finalist in that competition.
Most recently, “Forged in Fire” welcomed back eight armed forces members — and former “Forged In Fire” competitors — to compete with each other in an intense five-hour battle.
On July 21, four competitors participated in two duels in Part 1, with two winners heading to the final tournament. On July 28, Lopez participated in one contest in Part 2 and won his duel.
The two winners from the first episode and the two winners from the second episode met Wednesday night for the third and final tournament.
On July 28 in the Sergeant Duel, Lopez was challenged with making a M1915 Bolo Bayonet, a hybrid version of the bolo knife and the traditional bayonet designed at the turn of the 20th century and discontinued by World War II.
Born in Puerto Rico, Lopez went to Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Ga., from 1985 to 1987. In August 1989, he joined the U.S. Army.
Fermin became a helicopter medic and achieved the rank of sergeant before he was discharged from the Army.
“I was injured when I was over in Iraq, and I was discharged under medical conditions,” Lopez said.
He eventually moved to North Carolina and started working for the Kernersville VA Healthcare Center, where he is now a medical records custodian.
Lopez had always been a huge fan of “Forged in Fire” since its first episode in 2015 and kept telling himself that one day he would make it onto the TV show.
He said 16 contestants were chosen for the “Forged in Fire: Battle of the Branches Tournament” — four from each branch of the military.
For the Army competition, Lopez competed against two men from North Carolina and one from Wisconsin.
In late 2018, Lopez was chosen as a contestant on the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire” TV show for a five-part competition when top bladesmiths from each branch of the U.S. military — Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy—competed to earn a $50,000 prize. Lopez was a finalist in the competition.
Today, his custom-made knives sell just as fast as he makes them and have been bought by customers around the world, including Australia, South Africa, Russia and Puerto Rico.